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A number of shortlisted winners yesterday (Braidley 9/1, Justineo 4/1, Danas Present 12/1, Sir Pedro 7/1), but not many selected as the best wager, alas. Rain changed the going a little in the latter part of the first day of the meeting, and we commence day two on officially good to soft. We're forecast for a dry day until after racing at least, so that's what we'll work with.
Incidentally, clicking any of the race times will take you to the card, where you'll also find the magnificent Race Analysis reports and Full Horse Form Filters. They're well worth a little play if you haven't done so already.
1.40 Doncaster: We begin, like yesterday, with a nursery: a two-year-old handicap. For fillies only! Six and a half furlongs is the trip, and I'll be looking for a baby that gets seven furlongs with soft in the going description.
Ticking Katie and Aqlaam Vision are the two for me. Katie was green as grass on debut, but in four runs since she's finished first or second in all of them, including over seven furlongs on good to soft at Newmarket last time. She was only beaten a neck there, and she might have thrown her chance away by hanging. If charting a straighter course, she'll go close.
Aqlaam Vision has also run consistently well in her four starts, including in a Class 2 maiden on good to soft at Goodwood. She stays this trip and further (second over a mile last time) and is another set fair to run on into the mix.
Les Gar Gan received a shabby Mulrennan ride last time to blow my (and many of your) placepot(s), and he's replaced by Silvestre de Sousa this time. The horse continues to show promise but I wonder if she might turn into one of those frustrating sorts. Certainly she seems to need a bit to go right for her. On the plus side, she's won on soft and that automatically puts her near the top of the pile here.
A - 3 (Ticking Katie), 9 (Aqlaam Vision), 11 (Les Gar Gan)
2.10 Doncaster: My friend Yuichi from the Japan Racing Association may well be presenting the prize for this JRA-sponsored Group 3, and I wish him well if he is (or if he isn't!). It's a good race for the grade, and my nemesis from Goodwood, Annecdote, faces nine rivals, including the filly I backed - and she beat - there, Winning Express.
Maureen is favourite though, despite the Hannon yard not having the best time of it oop north. Ignoring the stable record, and the nag has a fine chance. She's two from two on good to soft, including a win in the Group 3 Fred Darling, over seven furlongs, earlier in the season. She's subsequently run well in defeat in three successive Group 1's, and the ground may well be the key. She's a serious player.
Annecdote must be a fantastic filly to own. She's won five of her ten starts, four of them over today's trip, and she won her maiden on soft ground, having finished second to... Maureen... when that one lost her maiden tag, on good to soft. I wouldn't be sure she'd appreciate the soft as much as Maureen, but she's incredibly likable and should again run her race.
Winning Express was in front of both that pair in the 1000 Guineas, and has since won a Listed race at Warwick before running up to Annecdote in the Oak Tree Stakes. Her issue might be that she's unproven on softer than good, and she's a less reliable proposition than the other pair in that context. Of course, she could be even better on it, but that's conjecture and her price is too skinny to accommodate such whimsy.
The rest look various degrees of outclassed, though Nargys has a decent race in her at some point. But I think Maureen will be tough to beat here, and Annecdote may well make the frame too.
A - 4 (Maureen)
2.40 Doncaster: Yikes! 22 of 'em over six and a half furlongs for a typically impossible sales race. Six of the nine winners of this to date returned an SP in single figures, and four were favourite, which gives some hope amongst the volume of horseflesh on parade. That said, in 2011, the result was 20/1, 33/1, 66/1 (with Aidan O'Brien saddling the winner!)
Ben Hall is the top officially rated, and he's run well in better races than this, as his rating implies. He has a fair run on good to soft under his belt, and the trip should be ideal. He'll make the placepot ticket in a race where stakes should be kept to minimum, and 'pot perms should be wide and deep!
Coulsty has to be a dodge. His dad, Kodiac, throws tons of quick ground horses and very few soft surface winners. This boy has yet to race on slow turf, and he's an opposable favourite for me.
Tanzeel is short enough on the balance of his form after just two runs, the latter being a win in Class 5. That said, he was thought highly enough of to debut in a Class 3 race, so perhaps there's a fair bit more to come. An official mark a stone below the best of these means he's little value at 7's.
Art Official is interesting. He's on a hat-trick here, and has won in this grade. Moreover, he encounters softer ground for the first time since a close up debut second to that good horse, Parbold. Ryan Moore rides, and this fellow is on my shortlist, no question. As a son of Excellent Art, he's likely to appreciate the return to soft.
Then I'm looking for some B rags to bolster the ticket. I can make bits and pieces of a case for the likes of Tanseeb (should go in the ground, trip looks ideal); Suzi's Connoisseur (Listed winner last time); and Mawfoor (ran ok in the Coventry last time, and trainer Brian Meehan has won this twice).
Plenty of others with squeaks in a tough, tough contest.
A - 4 (Ben Hall), 8 (Tanzeel), 9 (Art Official)
B - 3 (Tanseeb), 7 (Suzi's Connoisseur), 12 (Mawfoor)
3.15 Doncaster: The Group 2 Park Hill Stakes is the feature of the day, for fillies and mares only, and it's run over the extreme distance of a mile and six and a half furlongs, the same as the St Leger itself. So this is sort of the Ladies' Leger. Or the Silver St Leger. Or something.
The Lark is short, but for a reason. She goes on the ground, ran well in the Oaks, and has a touch of class about her. And three-year-olds, with their hefty weight for age allowance, have done well in the Park Hill. As a daughter of Pivotal, stamina has to be taken on trust and, at 7/4 or thereabouts, I'm hunting around for a bit more value.
Alta Lilea might be that. She's the second highest rated, has won on this ground, and is sure to stay. 8/1 offers more scope to be wrong than 7/4 does about the jolly, especially as she could get an easy lead and dictate steady fractions to the pursuing plodding petals (or staying fillies and mares, if you like your lingo more prosaic).
Seal Of Approval is untried on the ground and at the trip, but she won a Listed race last time over a mile and a half, so she has some stamina and some class. James Fanshawe is not known to tilt at windmills, which adds lustre to her chance.
Jathabah will stay all right, but she was beaten by Alta Lilea at Goodwood, and I see no obvious reason why the form would be reversed here. Strange then, that Jathabah is a slightly shorter price.
A - 6 (Alta Lilea), 9 (The Lark)
3.50 Doncaster: We're in juvenile maiden territory, and this one is over a mile. Allied to the ground, that's a serious test of stamina for such young horses. The race has been won by some good priced sorts from leading stables, and all bar one of the last ten winners were having either their first or second run.
The obvious place to start - and perhaps, to end - was the once raced Alpine Retreat. Alas, he's a non-runner, which throws a horse-sized cat amongst the unraced pigeons, if you see what I mean. I don't like Pupil, a horse that was sent off favourite on its only run, and should have fared better with no obvious excuses. So we'll be market guessing and pedigree projecting.
The other Godolphin entry, Fast Delivery, is an Authorized colt, out of a Catcher In The Rye mare, and that's a good staying pedigree. He's bound to know his job, and SdS will steer. Should he fail to fire, Hard Divorce - a son of Hard Spun, a stallion whose progeny, including Moviesta, do surprisingly well on soft - might be the one. His trainer, David Brown, has a 41% place strike rate with juvenile newcomers and that's impressive.
Richard Fahey also saddles an Authorized first timer, Come On Sunshine, and his record with unraced juvies is also impressive: 14% win rate, and 36% placed.
Looking only at horses priced 20/1 or shorter, and Brown's and Fahey's record improves to 46% and 42% placed respectively.
A - 5 (Fast Delivery)
B - 2 (Come On Sunshine), 6 (Hard Divorce)
4.25 Doncaster: A glut of non-runners in this six furlong sprint, due to the change in going since the 48 hour declarations were made. But no change in my three against the field, which are If So, Lupo d'Oro, and Mayaasem.
If So has won three from five this term, including on good to soft over this range. The negative with her is that she was tonked on her only try at this elevated level, and she may still not be up to it. Otherwise, conditions favour her.
Mayaasem has no such worries, after a half length third of fifteen at Newmarket in Class 3. That was on good ground, and he'd previously finished a close up second on good to soft, also in this grade. He's consistent and, if he doesn't fluff the start, can trouble the photographer.
Lupo d'Oro is a bit more speculative, but he has run well at this track and on softish ground. He's got plenty of big field form, including in a Class 2 sprint albeit over five furlongs, and he seems equally effective at this 20% longer trip. He's 28/1 which is playable for small stakes each way.
A few fair judges have been trumpeting the chance of Thunderball, who ran better than his finishing position intimates last time from a poor draw. He's a cracking placepot horse because he's got no 'obvious' form figures, and makes the ticket accordingly, especially given a liking for soft ground.
A - 5 (If So), 20 (Mayaasem)
B - 4 (Thunderball), 9 (Lupo d'Oro)
5.00 Doncaster: Four out in the last so far, leaves ten, to race over a mile and a quarter in this Class 2 handicap. The best suited to the ground, on what they've shown so far at least, are Greek War, Clon Brulee and Tha'ir. The trip is spot on for all three as well, and Tha'ir might just be the best value, given that he's top rated of those still running, and gets five pounds weight for age. He should run well, and 8/1 is playable.
Greek War, the other Godolphin runner from the other Godolphin stable, is feared most. He's been lightly raced and, despite finishing last on soft (when something clearly amiss: didn't race for a year afterwards), he won last time on good to soft, and deserves this step up in class.
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